A single goal on a header by Ralph Nayo was all East Chapel Hill needed Friday night to upset No. 2-ranked Chapel Hill 1-0 in a non-conference soccer match. Well, that goal and 80 minutes of solid defense by the Wildcats.
Nayo scored off a long throw-in by Will Heetderks, who launched a bomb from in front of the Chapel Hill bench to the middle of the penalty area. Nayo, a Chapel Hill defender and Tiger goalkeeper Aidan McCormick all rushed toward the ball and, as the keeper and defender collided, Nayo was able to deflect the ball with the back of his head into the net for his 15th goal of the season.
“I knew I wouldn’t have time to get a foot on it, because they have a great defense and they don’t give you much time in the box before they’re on you,” Nayo said. “I just acted on instinct.”
East Chapel Hill (11-4-3) snapped Chapel Hill’s streak at 17 wins and became the first team to shut out the Tigers (18-2-0) since they lost 3-0 at Cardinal Gibbons on Aug. 19.
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“They defended very well; they played very hard, and they capitalized on their chances,” Chapel Hill coach Jason Curtis said. “I don’t believe in the ‘good loss’ thing, but we better take a lesson from this. Better that it happens now than in the third round of the state playoffs.”
Chapel Hill had won 4-2 at East Chapel Hill on Sept. 30. In six matches prior to Friday’s game, the Tigers had outscored opponents 28-4.
East Chapel Hill had been just about as dominant in seven matches since its loss to Chapel Hill, going 6-1, all in conference matches, and outscoring opponents 35-6, shutting out four. The Wildcats’ lone blemish in that stretch was a 4-2 loss to PAC-6 leader Jordan.
“We turned a corner after the first Chapel Hill match,” East coach Austin Collins said. “We’ve played very well since then.
“We’ve had a lot of great performances, where we’ve won by five, six goals. We haven’t had too many great wins in a close game with a quality opponent. We needed a good close match like this as we get ready for Cardinal Gibbons on Monday and the playoffs after that.”
Curtis agreed that the playoff-like intensity level of the series with 4A East Chapel Hill was exactly what his 3A program needed.
“It’s always going to be a quality game,” he said. “That’s why we schedule them twice every year, home and away. It’s a great series.”